Guinness Premiership: Worcester Warriors 6 Leicester Tigers 13
This game was so bad even a work experience broadcaster sat a couple of places to my right, wide eyed and enthusiastic at the start, left at half time.
There have, perhaps, been worse Guinness Premiership matches, possibly with more reset scrums, injury stoppages, turnovers, knock-ons and even less creative sparkle but thankfully I’ve never seen them and I’d pay good money to keep it that way.
Leicester were bad, Worcester were worse and referee David Rose was somewhere below that. And to think I sat on the A38 for more than an hour-and-a-half to see to such bilge.
"What a load of rubbish!" the South Stand chorused after an hour. As well they might, although if there is one criticism it is that they’ll need to be more precise next time, as their sentiment could have applied to any number of things.
Not though Worcester’s defence. Once again it held admirably. One momentary blip aside, which led to Seru Rabeni’s 12th-minute try, they repelled a Leicester backline which though short of one or two internationals, still contained Ollie Smith, Sam Vesty and Dan Hipkiss.
Dale Rasmussen was once again the heartbeat of his team’s defensive effort, hauling ball carriers down with every sinew in his body and staying on his feet to contest for possession.
For the final 70 minutes Leicester were limited to just four shots at goal, only two of which Ian Humphreys could accept and that means they have conceded just two tries in their last four games, step forward and take a bow Mr Larder.
But every step of defensive improvement only serves to highlight the paucity of their attacking play. Worcester are a team that is better without the ball.
Those same four games have yielded just two tries and their last two, both matches at Sixways, have not produced any. Three Shane Drahm penalties is the sum total of their offensive threat in 160 minutes of rugby.
If there is an attack coach with Phil Larder’s Midas touch could he please contact Sixways as soon as possible?
Worcester’s problem on Saturday was the fact that they were not able to rely on their set piece. Their lineout, particularly in the first half, spluttered horribly and though John Brain refuted the notion, their scrum was none too clever either.
Julian White, the only member of Leicester’s England contingent to play a full game, had great fun with his former team-mate Darren Morris and forced the Warriors loosehead to bale out of on several occasions.
Apparently only his director of rugby and Mr Rose were the only ones unable to spot his difficulties and he can consider himself fortunate not to have been fingered for dropping a sequence of scrums on his own line.
When Worcester don’t have supremacy, or even parity, at the set piece they have little to offer. On two instances in the first half they managed to manufacture a corridor for Aisea Havili to work in but was the ball was never forthcoming.
First, following a break into the Tigers’ 22 by Shane Drahm, the Tongan winger stood on his touchline and waited. Drahm was probably too far away to find his man with a pass but an angled grubber was well within the full back’s skill-set.
Then, with his side trailing 7-3 and six minutes to go before the break, Rasmussen straightened the point of attack but opted to go for line himself rather than giving his team-mate the ball and just five metres to cover.
Just before that Marcel Garvey had fumbled Drahm’s punt to the corner that merely needing picking up and touching down.
When they weren’t messing up their precious few openings with their hands, they were doing it with their heads.
Ryan Powell won a penalty a few steps from the visitors’ line but instead of opting for a scrum against a team reduced to 14 by Brett Deacon’s yellow card, they opted for the posts.
It was an error of judgment and although Brain refused to condemn his decision-makers in this particular instance, he agreed with the wider principle. "The way we played when we had them down to 14 men was naive," he said. "We are not going to get out of the position we are in if we show poor composure and we panic."
Ironically the position they are in has actually improved somewhat with what Brain admitted was their ‘poorest performance for some time’.
They at least picked up a loss bonus whereas Northampton failed to take even that from their game at home to Harlequins.
That narrowed the gap at the bottom to three points and although Saints have a match in hand, they are not winning them at the moment and it looks as though through sheer cussed determination the momentum is with the Sixways side.
"We play Bath, Newcastle and Saracens at home and we have to win those matches to stand a realistic chance of survival," he added.
And to do that, they’re going to have to find a way to work in denominations of five rather than three.
WORCESTER: Drahm; Havili, Rasmussen, Trueman (Feaunati 53), Garvey; Brown (Delport 57), Powell (Runciman 67); Morris (Taumoepeau 74), Fortey (Lutui 60), Taumoepeau (Horsman 46), Gillies, Collier (Blaze 60), Hickey, Sanderson, Horstmann (Harding 40).
LEICESTER: Vesty; Tuilagi, Smith (Gibson 60), Hipkiss, Rabeni; Humphreys, Murphy F (Ellis 71); Ayerza (Moreno 55), Buckland (Hickie 60), White, Cullen, Kay, Croft (Crane 68), Jennings, Deacon. Replacements not used: Hamilton, Murphy G
Referee: Mr D Rose (RFU)